Spangler Candy Company: A "Sweet" Celebration of American Manufacturing

Posted by admin on 12/10/2011

A report from the Alliance for American Manuacturing's Rachel Bennett Steury...

What do you get when you mix 2 million tons of sugar with three generations of Midwest ingenuity? You get 2 billion pieces of candy churning out every year from Bryan, Ohio's Spangler Candy Company.  

Spangler Candy Company, maker of famous brands like Dum Dum pops, Saf-T-Pops, Circus Peanuts, and Candy Canes, is proud to be going strong for over a century, making great candy treats in the heartland of America. 

Their 550,000-square-foot manufacturing facility receives 10,000 visitors each year who tour the operations and bask in the wonder of candy making. Three shifts of workers produce 10 million Dum Dum pops and 1.5 million Saf-T-Pops each day; a staple proven to be recession-proof. As CEO Dean Spangler explained, “At 20 calories and 5.5 grams of sugar, the Dum Dum is the smallest sugar treat you could give your kids that costs a penny a piece to make.” However, Dum Dums are not just for kids, since 20% of them are consumed by adults.    

Bryan, Ohio is the home of 85% of all Spangler candy production. In a city with less than 9,000 residents, Bryan has been known as the Lollipop, or Dum Dum capitol of the world since 1964. With such a strong Midwest manufacturing history, it’s no surprise that Williams county, where Bryan is located, has twice as many manufacturing jobs per capita compared to the state average. Nearly one out of every four people in this county has a manufacturing job. Spangler has over 400 candy makers, members of Local 20 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with 25% of its workforce employed there for more than 25 years. Take for example Dorothy Park, who has been on the Spangler shop floor since 1948. I bet Dorothy has developed quite the sweet tooth over the past six decades at Spangler. There are now over 240 people in the 25-year club, both current and retired members of the Spangler team.   

In William Culbertson’s 2006 book, A Sweet Century; The 100-Year History of Spangler Candy Company and the Spangler Family, the importance of Spangler brands as fixtures in American history is explained. During the Vietnam war, Spangler made suckers stamped with the American flag and the peace sign (called Peace Pops). The American Heart Association used a Spangler lollipop embossed with a heart for fundraising projects in the seventies. In the seventies and eighties, the United States Navy held lollipop concerts on the mall in Washington DC, passing out Dum Dums to all the children. Ronald Reagan even kept a box of Dum Dums on his desk to give away. Recent “A” ratings by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the American Institute of Baking (AIB) provided small town Spangler with world class recognition. In the past 10 years Spangler lollipops have outperformed all other lollipops in its competition.  

Dean Spangler is the third generation of the Spangler family to run the company since 1906. The family prides itself on its ability to stay relatively small and focused because it is not a public company. “In 1913 we had a $2,000 mortgage. We are now debt free. We don’t answer to the banks or to Wall Street, only to ourselves. If we were a public company we would have huge pressure to move,” Dean said. In Culbertson’s book, Dean reveals the underlying success of the company by explaining “…Spangler stands today as an example of the good the free enterprise system can accomplish when it does so for the right reasons. Not for greed but for the drive to be independent and the competitive instinct to love work and invest both capitol and conscience in it.”  

Celebrate the holidays with a sweet treat from Spangler, a company committed to making and keeping it Made in America.

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